The Sole Society, a Family History Society researching Sole, Saul, Sewell, Solley and similar names

By the Back Door

By Brian Sewell

This article was originally published in the August 2005 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society

The July 2000 edition of Soul Search included my article, “Putting Flesh on the Bones”, outlining the then progress made tracing my Sewell ancestors, mainly centred on the Billericay area of Essex, now a tree on the society disc as ESSmtnC. As is so often the case, there were more questions than answers. I hoped but didn’t really expect it might strike a chord by someone reading the article. Nothing happened.


Meanwhile, I also joined the Essex Society for Family History & the East of London FHS. A lady from the latter wrote to me saying she had some Sewell ancestors in nearby Galleywood but couldn’t see a connection, as although the first names were similar, the 1861 census information indicated a 20 year difference in ages. Even allowing for a little leeway, this was hard to cope with. However, looking at the census myself, it seemed as though the lady had understandably misread the ages. I made A3 sized prints of the entry & sent a copy to her, with a note hoping that she would agree with my contention that we were related. Clearly she did not, as I’ve not heard from her since!


There was more luck with the Essex Society for Family History. I was quickly contacted by Sarah Hay. She also had Sewell ancestors in the same area, including Billericay. It wasn’t long before we were helping each other to progress our respective trees, Sarah also joining the Sole Society. Even so, we could not find a connection between our two families. It has always amazed me how Sarah, now with a young family of her own, manages to scramble around so many churchyards looking at gravestones, originally mainly in Essex but now also helping Diana Kennedy by doing a similar thing in Cambridgeshire.


A major step forward came when our editor started putting articles from Soul Search onto the society’s web site. I had two contacts within eight weeks of each other. Firstly, Irene Evans contacted me. She is descended from Joseph Sewell, b.1834, an elder brother of my gt-grandfather, David Sewell, b. 1839. Joseph, a Hay Dealer & his family were well known in the Billericay area & Irene kindly provided a lot more information about her side of the family, including Joseph’s grandson, Oscar Sewell Ladbrook, who was killed in WW1 & was the subject of a short article in Soul Search. The second was Ron Edwards, who sadly died earlier this year; he was descended from David’s elder sister, Phoebe, b. 1826. Ron also joined the society & again provided me with a lot more information, so ESSmtnC grew significantly with these two additional contributors.


Some while later the web site resulted in another contact, this time by Adam Sewell, who has also subsequently joined the society. Although I couldn’t see an immediate connection, Adam’s earliest ancestor, another Joseph Sewell bc.1818 & many of his descendants were familiar to me, as I had already discovered Joseph, at one time occupied variously as a milkman & pork butcher in Billericay, was the subject of a separate tree. I went back to the difficult to read 1841 census for the Billericay district looking for Joseph & was amazed to find him living in the same cottage as my 2x gt grandfather James! Somehow, I had missed it on the first occasion I had looked at the census. Joseph appears to be the youngest brother of James, b. 1801. Joseph appears to have been born shortly before the sudden death of their parents, Mark & Phoebe, together with a baby sister, Mary. The end result was the amalgamation of our trees.


Meanwhile, one of the results of all Sarah’s work was that Pam Rose contacted her. Pam is a real enthusiast [or should it be addict?] and after comparing notes, it was soon apparent that Sarah & Pam were related, so their tree [ESSwrtD] grew rapidly.


Pam quickly joined the society and as well as Sewell, she was researching other family names, including; Fewell [easily confused with Sewell], Wade & Cross. Amongst our many interchanges, Pam asked about any information I might have about the nearby Brentwood Sewells. I sent what I had, much of which came from a Jean Agnew, who had done a lot of work extracting Sewell information from parish registers in and around the Brentwood area, passing it onto me, enabling me to create another Sewell tree, ESSbrwA. I also gave Jean’s email address to Pam. It wasn’t long before I was informed that the two trees, ESSwrtD & ESSbrwA were connected but not through Sewells but through the Wade family!


Coincidentally, Pam noticed my 2xgt grandmother, Amelia Cross, wife of James Sewell, came from Ingrave, part way between Billericay & Brentwood, from where Pam’s Cross family also came. After quite a lot of work, especially by Pam & her contacts, we came to the conclusion that we are also related through the Cross family.


So, there is a connection “by the back door” between trees; ESSbrwA, ESSmtnC & ESSwrtD but it is not through Sewells - yet! However, the society has gathered an immense amount of information over recent years that enabled us all to significantly expand our respective trees and kept us keen to do even more research. It has also been gratifying to see we have increased our membership of Essex Sewells. Long may it continue!

Return to The Sole Society Home Page